Internet cafes as I’d like them to be

A group of Quezon City councilors are proposing an ordinance controlling the operations of Internet shops so that kids are spared from “the negative effects of prolonged exposure to computer games and programs.” This I learned from inquirer.net.

I’m giving a thumbs-up to the councilors for their noble intention. I’m only concerned that their guidelines might be too universal that adults may be treated like kids, too. That sounds preposterous of me, of course. I arrived at that claim just because, for one, the councilors want “cubicles” out of the internet shops. I believe that adults want to use the Internet shops like they would like to use computers in their own homes, or in their partitioned offices. Adults engage in activities that involve their identities, like credit card transactions and social networking.

As to kids, Internet shops are there not only for them to play online games, right? Cybercafes must be developed as centers for research and e-learning. We can call them edutainment centers, if you like.

If I were asked by the councilors to propose guidelines that are friendly to kids and adults as well, I’d give the following pointers:

  • Separate a set of computers for kids, no cubicles or obvious partitions. Alternatively, place a set of computers close to shop’s entrance or in a place where shop staff can easily monitor the kids’ activities.
  • For customers to receive an adult “treatment” (like being brought to the workstations with cubicles or no-snoop setup), they must present IDs with pictures that only adults can have, such as SSS, TIN, passports, etc. Of course, the ID information must not be recorded by the shop clerks.
  • Time the online games, which should be one hour at the maximum. I think that over an hour is too much for a kid to spend for games. There are other things that kids need to do as far as their productivity is concerned.
  • There must be a patronage rate for students, which means lower than that for adults. This is to attract more kids who might find the previous guidelines unattractive.
  • Redesign the computer desktops so that they appeal for learning, even while having fun. The desktops must provide links or shortcuts to educational or edutainment programs or websites. Reduce non-educational games shortcuts to up to three. Uninstall or delink smut ones.
  • Kids (and adults alike) must be exposed to various alternatives to computing or must be given choices as to which computer programs to use. For web browsers, Mozilla Firefox must be installed along with Internet Explorer (the former is much more secure than the latter). For office suites, Microsoft Office has an almost equivalent to OpenOffice.org (but the latter has other features that the former doesn’t, like a built-in export to PDF). For chats, there is gaim as an alternative to yahoo messenger (they’re actually beyond compare because gaim has more features, although it doesn’t have webcam support yet). And so on and so forth. For more information about open source equivalents, visit this site.
  • Computers must be provided to help kids learn computer programming. Presently, most, if not all, computer shops don’t provide that environment. In order to do so, install cygwin in each Microsoft Windows computer. Or install vmware so that Linux-based operating systems may be installed to run under the Microsoft platform. Better yet, internet shops must be encouraged to install Linux in some or all machines because Linux-based operating systems (such as Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, and OpenSuse) are virus-free, as powerful as Microsoft Windows in terms of desktop productivity, and programming-friendly.

Dear QC councilors, I’m willing to help in the drafting of the guidelines if you find this advice of mine useful. Dear internet shop owners, what do you think about the proposed ordinance as well as my proposals? I’m willing to help you (by also encouraging others like me to help) redesign your computer network and desktops into a kids- and adults-friendly setup.

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